(This is one of those articles that might be a little too difficult to understand if you do not understand bowling lingo or jargon. I’ll try to explain the terms I use throughout the article as much as possible.)
I have a couple questions for anyone reading this who bowls competitively.
Real quick, what are the least amount of strikes that you will need for a 200 game? Take just a few seconds to answer. Do not spend too much time answering.
Alright. Now how many strikes would you need for a 200 if you didn’t cover a single spare? Again, take just a few seconds to answer.
Are you ready for the answers?
At least two strikes.
That is the minimum amount of strikes that you need to produce a 200 or higher.
Two strikes in a row to start with nothing but single pin spares until the fill ball (last ball in the 10th frame if you have struck or converted a spare in the 10th frame).
Clean game, 200.
Don’t believe me? Download a bowling scoring app and plug in the scores yourself.
Now how about the second question: How many strikes do you need for a 200 if you do not convert a single spare?
At least six strikes in a row, miss three single pin spares in a row, and then knock down at least 5 pins in the 10th frame.
That’s how many strikes you need for a 200 if you do not cover a single spare.
Again, plug in the scores yourself if you think I am lying.
“Why is this important?” you might be asking.
It’s important because I sincerely believe that at least 85% of bowlers are foggy about what amount of strikes or spares are needed for a 200, and I’m talking competitive bowlers here.
No one really knows exactly what kinds of combinations of strikes and spares are necessary for a 200.
Something that a lot of people I bowl with say is that “it is so difficult to get a 200” during any given bowling session when they are struggling.
I’ve heard professional bowlers who travel around the world competing say this and it makes me laugh.
It actually isn’t difficult to produce a game of 200 or higher in bowling if you know what targets to hit, how to adjust, and if you are really good at shooting spares.
I also believed that it was difficult to throw a 200, but after I realized what it actually took for a 200, I started believing that throwing a 200 game in bowling is easy, provided you know what you are doing.
Although I am no bowling coach (yet), there are a lot of things that you can do to shoot a 200 or better on any given oil pattern with (almost) any ball.
If you are a competitive bowler, pay attention to this article. It’s a hard lesson that I learned from most of the bowling tournaments I have bowled at this year.
Because shooting a 200+ game in bowling is a choice in today’s game.
No matter how crazy an oil pattern gets or what kinds of lane surfaces you are dealing with, it is always possible to throw a 200 or better.
I truly believe this.
If you have the right equipment, have the fundamentals down, are nearly perfect at shooting spares, and have enough mental focus, nothing can stop you.
Other bowlers messing with the oil pattern won’t stop you.
Oil patterns themselves won’t stop you.
Nothing will stop you from shooting 200s and beating everyone in the field at your league or tournament if you do everything right.
Here’s what I believe you will need to do to shoot at least a 200 in bowling.
You must be fundamentally sound
Just like with golf, tennis, or any sport that revolves around individual performance over team performance, every successful competitive bowler on the planet has solid fundamentals.
What are these fundamentals?
Here are what I believe they are, from the simplest fundamentals the most complicated:
-Taking the same amount of steps to the foul line every time
-Having consistent tempo with the steps you take
-Having a consistent drift and arm swing
-Having consistent timing when delivering the ball
-The ability to drop your shoulder before releasing the ball without losing balance at the foul line
-Knowing how to use either the foul line itself, the dots past the foul line, or the arrows on the lane to determine your targets on the lanes every single time you get up to deliver the ball. I personally use the dots past the foul line.
-Knowing where you should stand relative to your target on the lane
-Knowing bowling balls: How covers and surface affect the oil and the lane and ball reaction. I don’t count learning intimate details about bowling balls as fundamentals, although it is very useful to learn intimate details about bowling balls if you want to be competitive.
-Being able to hit the same target that you selected every single time
-Being able to apply rotation to a bowling ball properly
-Knowing oil patterns: How the length and the volume of an oil pattern can affect your targeting systems
If you know these fundamentals, shooting a 200 is very possible no matter what.
And if you are competing on typical house patterns (where a lot of oil is distributed in the middle of the lane and less oil is distributed on the corners of the lane), it will probably be likely.
I’m serious. If all you gave me was just one polyester spare ball and just one resin cover ball for the rest of the season and nothing else, I’d be able to average 200 on a typical house pattern.
Hell, I could probably do it with just a spare ball.
Why is this?
It’s because I know the fundamentals.
But when it comes to challenging oil patterns that are not as forgiving as a typical house oil pattern, you’ll need more than just solid fundamentals.
So let’s go into these “advanced” techniques.
Throw straight at every spare you leave using a plastic/polyester ball
The best bowlers in the world do the exact same thing:
They shoot straight at spares with a plastic ball.
“But Joelsuf, (insert bowler here) hooks their ball at spares!”
Okay. Well, are you (insert bowler here)?
No, you’re not.
Have you won the amount of titles that they have won?
No, you haven’t.
You’re bitching about how difficult it is to throw a 200 when all you need are literally at least 2 strikes in a row with spares around them.
So throw a plastic/polyester ball at every spare you leave.
Just do it and don’t ask questions about it.
Will it take some time to perfect this?
Absolutely. It took me a little under two years to master the art of throwing a plastic/polyester ball straight at spares.
But it is worth it.
There are two really good benefits to throwing a polyester/plastic ball straight at spares.
First, they are not affected by oil patterns.
A plastic/polyester ball will go wherever you want to throw it every single time, with very few exceptions.
And trust me, you’ll be really confident when it comes to spares when you realize that all you need to do is hit the pin (or pins) you need to hit with your plastic/polyester ball.
Second, shooting straight at every spare you leave will teach you valuable lessons in how to be accurate, which is probably the most important thing in bowling.
Throw straight at your spares. Just do it.
Play where no one else is playing on the lane (if you can)
This applies more to challenge and sport oil patterns than typical house oil patterns, but it can apply to typical house oil patterns as well.
One of the reasons why a lot of competitive bowlers say that you are sometimes trying to hit a “moving target” when it comes to bowling is because oil will transition as your bowling session progresses.
This is especially true when it comes to oil patterns and lane surfaces that are not forgiving. There are some instances where you might need to make adjustments with your target and ball changes every two frames and this can get very challenging.
It can be very difficult to micromanage these kinds of adjustments if you do not have a team or a coach to see things that you might not be aware of.
It is for this reason that you should do all you can to play where nobody else is playing, especially in today’s game where equipment can cause near constant lane transition, even on house patterns.
While you probably shouldn’t do this if you are part of a team, you should certainly do this during singles competition.
When you play a part of the lane that very few others are playing at, you’ll be able to micromanage your adjustments much better.
You can actually see this during professional bowling matches. The players who currently win the most are the ones who throw urethane bowling balls up the gutter if they can, far away from where other players are.
I’m serious. Take a look at some of the pros that you see on TV and watch where they play. Watch where the ones who win most of their matches play.
There’s nothing wrong with playing where nobody else is playing during singles competition.
Know how to loft a bowling ball
Bowlers have a serious issue with loft.
Some older bowlers straight up do not like when bowlers loft a ball for whatever reason.
This is especially true when bowlers who throw the ball with a lot of rotation (or with two hands) need to loft the gutter cap in order for the ball to hold its line.
People scoff at this, saying that doing this kind of thing ruins the sport of bowling or whatever.
I also used to scoff at this, but after one night where I was struggling in league, I learned about the usefulness of lofting a bowling ball.
Feeling curious, I began lofting my ball, playing my typical line I play for typical house oil patterns. I wound up shooting a 250.
Now I don’t have the kind of rotation that would ever warrant me needing to loft the gutter cap, that doesn’t mean I can’t benefit from lofting a bowling ball.
And on that night, I learned that lofting the ball can be advantageous.
Bowling used to be a game of who can find the most hook.
Now it’s become a game of who can find the most hold.
And nothing creates more hold than lofting a bowling ball.
But like with anything else in bowling, you need to loft a bowling ball correctly.
You can’t just hoist the ball over the arrows as if you were on the mound at a softball game.
Lofting doesn’t work like that.
The purpose of lofting is to clear the heads (first 20 feet of the lane) so that your ball can hold its line.
Loft the ball too high, and it will hold too much.
Admittedly, I struggle with this. When I loft a bowling ball, I’ll tend to get the ball way higher than I need it to be. This causes me to miss my target wide.
However, the world is yours once you understand how to loft a bowling ball properly, and I know this.
There is nothing stopping you from being able to shoot a 200 or better in any given house on any given oil pattern if you consider all these things.
Something I am starting to wake up to more and more is that given the experience and ability that I have, bowling well or poorly is a choice.
This is something that the best bowlers on the planet also know, and it is also something that anybody who is good at anything knows about as well.
There is no excuse to not shoot a 200+ game in bowling if you have all the tools to do so.